For Everything You Are

by Westcliff Writer

Chapter 6

A tear, dropping from Jake's face onto the letter he clutched, hammered home the reality – Cody was gone, he was moving, and this was real! Falling in to his chair, placing the letter down, he sobbed, too scared to read, but too eager for answers. Taking a deep breath, his stinging eyes found the first words….

Dear Jake,

Pulling away, he attempted to compose himself before continuing, his heart beating fast, palms sweaty. Was this what it was like to experience loss, he thought. Letting out a long sigh, he again fixed his eyes to the letter.

Dear Jake,

I'm gonna try and be grown up here, so here goes.

For 10 years, you have been my best friend, but now we must say goodbye. I wish we had the chance to adventure deeper into our friendship but our time is almost up. You have touched a side of me I never knew existed, and while scared of that side, I'm glad you had a chance to reveal it. For a moment, I almost felt free from the burden of these feelings, but now I see that will not be the case.

When we kissed, it was like we were meeting for the first time, because we had found something new about each other. Don't get me wrong- I was scared, lost, and at times, totally freaked out, but I'm glad it happened, Fuck, yeah I can say, I'm glad it happened.

Just, thank you, Jake. What more can I say to a best friend who opened his heart to me, allowing me to feel what you feel – your love. But this love will now have to exist silently for us both across the great distance that will separate us.

I wish I could truly put here that, somehow, I was in love with you, too. Maybe I am, Jake, but I can't say it. I can't say it because I'm not ready to understand what that means for me. What I can say is you truly have no idea what I feel for you, fuck, even I don't think I really know deep down.

I would try to put this feeling into words, but I would fail miserably. I never thought I had the capacity to feel anything towards someone as much as I feel towards you right now. Yet, this emotion is now growing beyond my understanding. It eats away at me because I can't change it. You're leaving, and so to protect myself, I must say goodbye.

I want you to be brave and say good bye to ME now as well. Go live your new life and have no regrets for what we shared. I'll always remember you and be your friend. But I can't do this anymore, Jake; we can't do this. It's too fucked up for both of us, and I don't wanna let that pain turn to anger as it has been.

You are Jake Stevens, go do!

All my love,

Cody

Jake heaved as he read the final words, he felt sick. Collecting the letter, he slowly replaced it in the envelope and got up, pacing his room, not knowing what to do. He hadn't felt this low since sitting in the bathroom just after taking those pills. For a split second, he scared himself, thinking maybe he should do a proper job this time, but he shook his head violently, brushing the thought aside.

Sleep! I need to sleep, he thought, getting into bed, still fully clothed. The room was spinning, his face red from the tears. He clutched at the bed covers, trembling, cold, and lonely! Time passed slowly, but eventually, he drifted off.


"You look wonderful tonight."

"You scrub up quite well, yourself" Jenny replied to Alan, as they sat drinking in the restaurant. A soft chatter and clinking cutlery could be heard as Alan and Jenny melted in to the winter evening.

"You think he will be OK, Alan?" Jenny said, taking a sip of wine, changing the subject.

"If we're talking Jake, time will tell, but I'm glad he doesn't hate us."

"Well, I'd rather that than what we had to go through with him before."

"You still worry he'll do it again?" Alan glanced at Jenny, looking somewhat surprised.

"No, it's just…he's always been the sensitive type, you know, and he's fragile, especially at that age. I just don't want him to think that he's alone"

"He's not alone, Jen, and he knows that. I think us finding out he's gay has really helped a lot as well. You know, I mean, at least he hasn't got that burden on him anymore, and maybe that's enough pressure off him to cope with the rest of what he's feeling."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. I still don't know what the situation is with him and Cody, though. I wonder how that went," Jenny said, pulling a face.

"Well, we have three days left here, so they better sort it out soon; otherwise, I'm gonna bang their heads together." Jenny just laughed.

"Alan, its young love, it's all about egg shells at that age, and who can stop from cracking them? But seriously, I think Cody is taking this hard, and Jake, if I know him, he won't be helping matters."

"Do you think his parents know?" Alan asked, leaning forward and lowering his voice, almost as if they were sitting nearby.

"God no!" Jenny blurted out "Can you imagine Hazel dealing with that, and Craig? Alan, I don't even wanna think what will happen if he finds out. You know how they are with the teaching of the church and all that blubber? Don't get me wrong - I love Hazel and Craig, but unfortunately, their way of living, you know… in cotton wool land ruled by Dod, it makes them very closed minded." Alan nodded his agreement and put his hand up, getting a waiter's attention.

"Err, can we have the bill, please?"

"Yes sir, one moment, please," the waiter replied.

"I've really enjoyed tonight, Alan. We should do this more often."

Alan laughed for a moment. "Yeah, I would love to, but I'm sure where we're going means the nearest restaurant will probably be fifty miles away." Jenny just frowned and then let out a chuckle.

Alan looked at the bill and pulled out some notes, placing them on a service plate. They both got up and left the restaurant, thanking the concierge as they did.

"Wanna go have some fun?" Alan said, smiling

"I'm kinda tired, Alan, probably the wine."

"Ah, OK then, let's go home and have a nightcap. I'll pull out the brandy." Jenny put her arm round Alan's waist as they moved off.

"Sounds good," she said, leaning her head into him.


Cody got out of bed as the rain woke him up. Another glorious morning, he thought, looking out of the window. Moving to his desk, he picked up the half dozen half-finished letters, screwed them up and put them in the bin. He had tried to write that letter about six times before actually getting out what he wanted to say.

Wandering out of his room, he could hear and smell breakfast being made downstairs, his stomach hungry, but his brain not so.

"Ah, Cody, you're up," said his mother, as bacon was being unceremoniously poured onto a plate. The grease was making Cody feel nauseous.

"Hey," Cody replied, taking a seat at the table, still in his pyjamas. "Where's Dad?"

"Oh, he left early, he got to get a truck down to Southampton before ten today, he should be back pretty soon though. By the way, I need you to come to church with me tonight. I said I would take those books down for the bring-and-buy sale on Wednesday."

"Oh, Mum, do I have to? I was hoping to meet up with Kit today. School starts next week, and I don't feel like I have seen much of my friends over the holidays."

"Cody, I only need you for about an hour and then you can go. You should do your bit for the Lord and his church, like he does things for you," she replied.

"Yeah, what have I got to be grateful for?" he muttered under his breath. "OK, fine," he said more loudly.

"Good, so is Jake meeting up with you two as well?" Cody flinched, hearing Jake's name.

"Uh, no, he's um….probably busy with packing and all. I'll doubt I'll see him before he goes, anyway."

"Of course you will, sweetie, you can pop in on his last day, at least, you know, say goodbye and all that?"

"No, he'll be real busy on his last day, and I don't want to get in the way."

"Well, your father and I plan to pop in; the Stevens have been good friends to us over the years. The least you can do is see your friend and wish him well."

"Mum, will you just leave it, OK?" Cody got up and stomped off upstairs, leaving his mother shocked by his outburst. She followed a little after and found him lying on his bed.

"There was no need to shout at me, Cody," she said from the door way.

"I'm sorry, OK? I'm just tired of hearing that I should meet up with Jake, that's all."

"But, sweetheart, he's your best friend. It's only natural to feel upset about him leaving, but to not say goodbye, or have you two fallen out over someth…?"

"I have said goodbye, Mum, and no, we haven't fallen out. Now, can we please not talk about this, anymore?" Hazel let out a sigh.

"Oh, I get it," she said, with a serious look on her face

"Get what?" Cody sat up, a sudden wave of fear passing through him. "What do you get?" he asked impatiently. The frown on his mother's face slowly turned into a grin.

"You're fighting over a girl, aren't you? That's why you two have been at odds with each other," his mother said playfully. "So, c'mon, who is she, a friend from school?" Cody relaxed and let out a chuckle, letting his head fall back on the bed.

"What's so funny?" Hazel asked, looking confused "I'm right, aren't I, it's a girl?" Cody began to laugh even harder.

"Yeah, Mum, it's a girl, what can I say? You found me out," he replied sarcastically.

"Well…well, that's good honey." She left the room just as confused.

"Stupid woman," Cody muttered.


Kit was cleaning his aunt's car when his cell phone went off in his pocket. He lived with her ever since his parents were killed 8 years ago in a coach accident. Being only 7 at the time, he had taken it pretty rough, but as he grew up, he learned to accept the fact his parents were gone and had slowly moved on. His aunt seemed to put his easy jokey personality down to him compensating for their death. Either way, in Cody's eyes at least, he was a loveable rogue and a good friend.

"Hello?"

"Hey, Kit, it's Cody"

"Hey, man, how's it hanging?"

"Long and thick!"

"Hey, dude… too much info!"

"Well, you asked," replied Cody, chuckling. "So, anyway, the reason I called, do you wanna hang out later, maybe catch a movie or something?"

"Sounds good, Cody, and wow, you seem in a better mood, man, what gives?"

"Let's just say I got a lot off my chest last night."

"You wanna tell me about it?" said Kit, inquisitively

"No, I just wanna try and have some fun with a friend and try and forget it," came the reply

"It, meaning Jake," Kit laughed.

"Dude, what did I just say? I wanna have some fun with you and put all that out of my mind. Can you help me out with that? At least until he's gone?"

"Hey, I'm here for you, fella. I got chores to do for my aunt, but I'll come knock for you later, yeah?"

Yeah, Kit, sounds good. Oh wait!

"What?"

"Damn, I forgot, I gotta go to stupid church with my Mum, but I'll only be an hour. Listen, let me call you when I'm about to leave there, OK?"

"Cool." Kit hung up and went back to his aunt's car.


"OK, we have three days, Jen; we need to start putting stuff into storage. I've arranged to collect a van later today and I'm gonna take the larger stuff to my mother's garage," Alan said, writing notes on a pad. "Can you pack up any small stuff you wanna take, and I'll arrange for work to fly it out to us later. Oh, and we have two viewings later today; there was a message left on the answer machine when I got up."

Jenny sighed. "So much to do!"

"Yeah," Alan said, looking up from his notes. "Is Jake up yet? I could really do with his help today."

"He was crying last night, Alan, I don't think he got a lot of sleep."

"Crying? Do you know why?"

"Not sure. I didn't go in there. I just heard him when I got up about three o'clock to go to the toilet."

"Meh, let him sleep then, I'll handle things." Jenny smiled, appreciating Alan's thoughtfulness. "Can you call the utility companies as well and tell them there will be a change of occupier? I'm sure as hell not paying anyone else's bills when we leave here."

"Alan, just leave me a list, or I'm gonna forget all this. You just do what you need to do, and I'll get on with the rest."

"OK, honey, thanks." Alan got up, went upstairs, and pulled down the ladder leading up to the loft.' God knows what's up here,' he thought. Climbing up, he flicked a switch and the room in the roof lit up. There were boxes everywhere: Christmas decorations, toys, and old pictures all covered in a fine layer of dust. Alan sat on the edge, letting his legs hang down, wondering where to start. Noticing a box nearest to him, he pulled off the brown tape holding it shut, and peered inside. There were photographs, hundreds of them. He grabbed a handful and flicked through them as a smile started to appear of his face. They were of Jake when he was younger, some with Cody, some with his mother and him. Holidays, Christmas, Easter, birthdays, Jake's big grin staring at him in most of them. "How sweet," he mumbled, looking at a photo of Jake making sand castles at the beach with Cody.

Noticing he wasn't getting anywhere fast, he put the photos down and started arranging all the boxes near the entrance to the loft. He then began methodically pulling them down one by one and placing then in the hallway.

"Hey, dad, what ya doing?" asked Jake, standing behind him, rubbing the sleepiness out of his eyes.

"Oh, Jake, you made me jump! Um, well, I'm just clearing the loft out; we are getting some stuff put into storage today. Only three days until we're off." Alan ruffled Jake's bed swept hair. "Hmm, you need a haircut, young man."

"Yeah, thanks, Dad," replied Jake, brushing away his dad's hand. "So, you need any help?" Alan looked at Jake suspiciously. "What? It's not like I have anything better to do now my….now Cody is out of the picture."

"Out of the picture, what have you bumped him off or something?" Alan asked, laughing, but then turning serious when he saw Jake was not laughing. "Sorry, Jake, what do you mean?"

"Nothing, Dad, it's complicated. So, how can I help?" he replied, forcing a smile.

"Well, all these need taking down to the car, and then I need them loaded in the boot."

"OK, let me grab my trainers and I'll give you a hand," Jake sighed.

"Thanks, Son, I appreciate the help, what with your mother taking care of other stuff. So, you uh…you not seeing Cody today, you know you have not got long left, right?"

"No, Dad, me and Cody, we um, we're kind of finished," he stuttered out.

"Oh, sorry, Jake, I didn't know you and him were actually…."

"No, Dad! Not like that, I mean as friends. He… he doesn't want to see me anymore, you know, before I leave," Jake replied, shaking his head, cringing at the thought of his dad thinking they were an item.

"Oh," Alan chuckled nervously. "So what's that all about?"

"Dammed if I know! Maybe it's for the best, though," he lied, on both statements.

"So how do you feel about all this?" Alan continued.

"Well, now it's sunk in, I suppose I'm interested in what the place is gonna be like, I guess."

"No, silly… I mean, how do you feel about not seeing Cody before you go?"

"Gutted, Dad, But there is nothing I can do about it. I just have to accept that's what he wants and deal with it. He's a stubborn asshole, anyway!" This made Alan laugh.

"Like two peas in a pod," he said, shaking his head. Jake began to snigger, too.

Jake and his dad worked for the next hour until the last box was loaded into the car. Their hands and faces filthy from all the dust, they decided to wash up and get a cool drink.

"So, where are you putting all this stuff, anyway?" asked Jake, drying his hands.

"Taking it to your Granma's house. I'm gonna store it in her spare room until your Uncle Mike makes room in her garage for it."

"Uncle Mike," Jake chuckled. "You know, I'm gonna miss him, Dad. He always had something cool to say."

"Yeah, me too, Jake. Your mother's brother has always been….unique." Alan chuckled too, thinking of some of the things Mike had said. Mike was a tall, skinny bohemian like guy with long hair and moustache. He had a view on life that made for interesting conversations, but he was a wise man, and Jake always respected him and loved hearing his stories. "He said he might pop over before we go, anyway, and you can say goodbye to him."

"Cool, Dad but I'm not holding my breath" He laughed. "So, do you need me anymore? There is something I need to do."

"Oh, yeah, like what?"

"Just packing of my own, that's all." His son replied half defensively.

"Good idea, Jake, but remember, anything you want to take to America, leave separately, and I'll have it flown over, OK?"

"Yeah, OK, thanks Dad," Jake put his empty glass in the sink and headed up to his room.

Looking around, he knew he would miss his room. Laden with posters and pictures, a room full of memories. Among the items that needed to be packed, he saw a few of them that would be making their way into a separate box - a box that would be filled with the most intimate memories, the memories of him and Cody. Those items, he mused, would have a special box just for them.


"Kit?"

"Hey, Cody, sorry, my phone crashed on me. I can hear you now."

"Oh, cool, I thought you'd hung up on me," Cody winced.

"So where are you, man?"

"Just leaving the stupid church. I need to go to the shop first and pick up my new Lego model, but I'll be home in about twenty minutes."

"Ok, I'll meet you at yours, then."

"OK, bye."

"Yeah, see ya, dude."

Cody made his way to the local store to pick up his latest Lego model, this one being an airship. Rushing to pay the store owner, he ran home to meet Kit, who would already be waiting at his house.

"What took you so long?" Kit asked, tapping his watch as Cody walked into his driveway.

"Very funny. I thought I was actually pretty quick. So, are you ready to head out or do you want to come in for a little while?"

"I'll come in for a bit. The movie doesn't start until eight thirty, anyway," Kit said, smiling, causing Cody to raise an eyebrow.

"You already picked, then?"

"Yeah, it's a surprise, and you will like it." Cody was not convinced. "Anyway, before we go, you can tell me all about what's going on with Jake and you."

"I'm really not in the mood for that, Kit. I just want to forget about it if I can," Cody said, running his hand through his short blond hair.

"Yeah, well I do, and you're gonna tell me," Kit said playfully. Cody just sighed and went inside, leaving Kit to follow.

"Drink? I got Coke, orange juice, water, milk."

"Coke is fine," Kit responded, taking a seat at the kitchen table. "Cody, can I ask you a question?"

"You can, but I might not answer truthfully," he sniggered.

"If Jake wasn't going away, do you think you two would become…you know, like a couple?" Cody looked at Kit, folded his arms and leant against the kitchen worktop, and thought about the question for a while.

"The truth is, Kit, I don't know. You have to remember that even though we have been friends for years, we have only just discovered the other stuff very recently, and for me it's all been a bit fucked up…I've been a bit fucked up. I mean, Jake seems to be a bit clearer on how he feels, but me; I'm not so sure footed. Does that make sense?" Kit just nodded as he concentrated on Cody's words.

"Do you, ya know…love him?" Kit asked, venturing further with his questioning.

"He asked me the same thing, Kit, and it's the same answer. I don't know. I'm sixteen, he's sixteen, you're sixteen and, I mean, are we even supposed to know what that means?" Kit looked at Cody for a moment, wondering if he actually believed what he himself was saying, before being brave and saying what he thought the issue was between them.

"You wanna know what I think?" he asked, looking serious for a change.

"No, but you're gonna tell me," Cody grinned.

"I think you do love him, but you're too scared to admit it because of your sexuality." Kit kept his eyes fixed on Cody, trying to gauge his reaction.

"What the hell does that mean?"

Sigh. "Let's cut the bullshit here, Cody. You are too scared to admit you love him, because once you do, it's the final step in fully admitting you are gay…you know, to admit you have feelings for another guy. And because of that, you are both hurting. You, because you have let Jake go before admitting your feelings for him, and Jake, because he never got to hear you say it."

"I don't know what you're talking about, Kit."

"Liar," Kit shot back.

"What, is he paying you for this pep talk or something?" Cody responded, getting slightly irritated.

"For the record, man, I haven't even seen him. I just see what you're not willing to."

"What is this, anyway? I thought you were here to make me feel better." Cody snapped.

"Cody, you will never feel better until you admit the truth to yourself. It doesn't matter if I'm here, we see a movie, we hang out, or anything. This is gonna eat away at you, dude, until you stop being so stubborn and go see him."

"I don't wanna see him."

"You sure about that?" Kit was not letting up. He was gonna keep going until Cody threw him out or accepted what he believed was the issue. Cody attempted to fire one last salvo back in an act of defiance, but it was too late; emotions were rearing their ugly head again.

"Why are you doing this," he hissed

"Why? Because I see you beating yourself up, and you're…you're not you. Look at you, you're angry and you have a chance to put at least some of that right, and…and at least you have the fucking choice Cody! At least you have a choice to make it right."

"He's fucking leaving, Kit…he's fucking leaving me and I can't stop it. I can't fucking stop it. OK, OK, I fucking love him. I can't get him out of my head, I'm miserable, I'm…I'm…." That was it; Cody lifted his hands to his face and started to cry. "I'm gay," he managed to get out between sobs. Kit got up from the table and walked over to Cody, and without a thought, put his arms round him and pulled him in tight.

"I'm sorry, dude, but I had to. For your own sanity, I had to," Kit whispered, squeezing Cody a little tighter.

"Yeah, looks like you know me better than I do." Cody managed a small chuckle between sobs. Kit released his hold around Cody and stepped back, trying to gauge the look on Cody's face. It was red and wet, but he looked more relaxed. "You know, you would make a half decent therapist if you weren't such a know it all." Cody started to laugh with more confidence now.

"Hey, man, all I did was push you in the right direction. It was you who admitted all that, and I think it was more to yourself than me."

"I guess I was scared of admitting it," he said, sniffing and wiping his sleeve across his eyes, drying them. Listen I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"I got where you were going with this, your…your parents." Kit let out a sigh hearing him mention them.

"Just don't regret Cody, that's all I'm gonna say man. Whether you see him or not before he goes, just never fucking regret dude!"

"I've made my decision, Kit, It's for the best. The best for both of us, It'll work out I promise." Kit didn't look convinced judging by the face he was pulling but he let it be.

"So why were you so scared of admitting it?" Kit asked.

"What do you mean," Cody replied wiping the way the last of the wetness in his eyes

"You said, just now, you were scared of admitting it, you know, that you were gay?"

"Oh… well yeah I was, it's hard you know?"

"But why?" Kit asked wondering.

"Duh, Kit, have you met my parents, for a start?"

"Hmm, well, that's a bridge you'll have to cross when you get there, but I still don't see why admitting it to yourself was so hard."

"Well, I guess it was not really the life I had in mind. I mean, I knew there was something digging away deep down inside me, you know, but I always thought I would eventually do the wife and kids thing in the end, you know, like it's expected.

"Cody, it might be expected by your parents, but this is the twenty-first century. It's not a crime to be different, and it's certainly not a crime to have feelings for another guy. I don't care what your mum and dad think."

"Yeah," Cody replied, taking a final breath, as if he had fully regained his composure. "You're amazing, you know that?"

"Yeah, I know. Let's go catch this movie." Without another word from Cody, they left the house and headed down to the cinema.


Jake had made four boxes up in his room, mostly containing pictures, posters and bits of computer. Clothes would be last, and the bed was staying, albeit with the bedding removed. On his computer desk, there was another smaller box, which used to hold a pair of his Nike trainers. On the lid, he had written C O D Y, for this would be "The Cody Box." Inside were various small objects that amounted to almost every gift Cody had ever brought him. Key rings, Lego, a yoyo, and other knickknacks he had held onto with such love over the years, but would now be passed back to his friend. There was one extra item that Cody had not had any connection to, and that was… a CD. This Item….this final declaration, as he told himself, would be a reminder to Cody of his feelings.

As he sealed the four boxes up with brown parcel tape, he once again moved to the shoe box with the lid lying next to it. He slowly placed the lid on, and as if saying a silent prayer, taped it shut. The delivery of this box would be the absolute final thing he would do before joining his mother and father at the airport. Almost like a hit and run , he thought, placing the shoe box with the others.


The final day had now rolled round with unrelenting speed. It was 7am, and Jake and his family were waking for what would be their final breakfast in their three bed house. Cody was also out of bed, but for very different reasons.

Jenny and Alan had agreed on a tenant to rent the house, and all but a few bits of furniture had now been packed and moved. A courier was due at 9am to take the items that would be joining them in America and six suit cases sat nearby. The small family sat round the kitchen table, each deep in their thoughts.

"So, this is it?" Alan said, looking at his spoon, before placing it in his mouth.

"Yeah," was all Jake could muster to say.

"Anything you need to do, Jake, before we leave?" Jenny asked, hinting that maybe he and Cody had second thoughts on their rather unusual avoidance arrangement.

"Nope," he replied defiantly.

"Well, the flight is at 2pm, so I think we should leave around 10:30," said Alan, looking at his watch.

"OK, I'll call the rest of the family and give them out flight number. Oh, and I think Hazel and Craig are popping in before we go," Jenny added. Jake glanced up on hearing their names. He wondered if Cody would somehow turn up, but then decided it was probably easier if he didn't. He had kind of gotten used to the idea that he wouldn't.

"There is one thing I need to do," Jake said quietly.

"Yes, what is it darling?" Jenny said, glancing up at Jake.

"There is some stuff I need to give to Cody, but I was thinking, actually, if Hazel and Craig come round, I can just give it to them," he said, suddenly deciding that would be a better option. At least, there was no chance he would run into Cody then.

"Well, if you're sure, Jake," Alan added, and Jake let out a sigh.

"Probably for the best."


Cody was flicking through the TV channels in the sitting room when Hazel came through from the kitchen.

"Now, are you sure you won't come with us to Alan and Jenny's, Cody?"

"I'm sure, Mum." He managed a false smile.

"Craig, are you nearly ready?" she called upstairs to him.

"Be right down," came the reply. Hazel turned back towards Cody.

"Any last words, Cody?" she said, trying not to make the comment comedic.

"Yeah, tell Jake I'm….just tell him I said good luck, OK?" he said, his eyes dropping to the floor.

Craig came downstairs and met Hazel and Cody in the lounge. "We better be heading round then; otherwise, we'll miss them," Craig said, pulling on his shoes.

"Yep, OK, let's go. Just let me get my coat and scarf." Craig grabbed the house keys from the fruit bowl and they both headed out the front door. Cody watched through the window as they disappeared from view, wondering if he should be with them, but convinced himself he was making the right decision.

Not long after they left, the doorbell at the Stevens house was ringing. "I'll get it," Jake said, jumping up, somewhat excited. Opening the door, he glanced around the immediate area, and then fixed his eyes on Hazel and Craig, his shoulders dropping.

"I'm sorry, Jake, I did try," Hazel said, noticing his expression when realising Cody had, in fact, not come.

"It's OK, Mrs Dukes, I was just kinda hoping, that's all," came a dejected reply.

"I know, sweetheart. Our son can be a stubborn so and so, but I guess you would know that, anyway." She smiled. Jake invited them in and motioned them to the kitchen, where Jenny and Alan were.

"Hazel, Craig. Thank you so much for coming; we're so pleased you could make it before we go," Jenny said, wrapping her arms round Hazel. Alan and Craig nodded their greeting and shook hands.

"So how does it feel? I mean, this has got to be a big deal," Craig said, clapping his hands together.

"It's come round quick, I'll say that," Alan chirped in.

"Kinda sad, actually," Jenny added, looking around her kitchen. "When I think of all the memories here in this house, this kitchen, I can't believe we are actually leaving it all behind."

"So, have you seen the new place yet, Jen?" asked Craig. "Big, is it?"

"Well, Alan has shown me pictures of the outside, but nothing inside, but yeah, it looks pretty big."

"It's got a lot of land." Alan was nodding.

Jake had not joined then in the kitchen, so Jenny went to get him to come and be at least a little sociable, but could not find him in the lounge. As she made her way to the stairs, she met him as he was coming down, a small box in his hands. Jenny gave her son a sorrowful look and let him past.

"Mrs Dukes, could you make sure Cody gets this, please?" he said, placing it on the table.

"Of course, honey, what is it?"

"Just some… just a going away present," he replied. Jenny gave Jake a reassuring look, before letting him leave the kitchen. She could tell that just by Hazel and Craig being there, it was upsetting him.

The four of them chatted for the next half an hour and wished each other well for the future. Telephone numbers were exchanged, along with the address in America. Hazel asked Jenny to send a post card, and they agreed to send birthday cards, as well, to at least keep something normal.

When it was time to say good bye, Jake came back out into the kitchen and hugged Hazel and Craig and wished them well. He thanked them for all the kindness they had shown him over the years and said he would write to them sometime. Hazel kissed Jake on the cheek and Craig shook his hand.

"Tell Cody I'll, erm… miss him, will you?" Jake said to Hazel, causing Jenny to look at Alan.

"I will, Honey" Hazel replied, cupping Jake's neck in her hand. "Well, we'll leave you to it; no doubt you need to get going soon."

"Yeah, not long now," Alan said, shaking Craig's hand again.

Jenny and Alan led Hazel and Craig to the door and hugs were exchanged. Jake headed upstairs to the bathroom, probably to vent some emotion. He heard the door close and knew that this was it. A massive chapter in his life had now come to an end. He stood in front of the mirror and let out a long shaky sigh before splashing some cold water on his face. He returned to his room and lay on the bare mattress, waiting like some inmate on death row until the guards came to collect him for his execution.

"Final call, Jake," Alan shouted to him.

"Be down in a sec." Well this is it, he thought to himself as he heaved his body of the bed and patted downstairs.

The family gathered their suitcases from the kitchen and placed them in the car, with Jake looking on as Alan shut the front door for the final time. He wondered if he would ever see his town again. Wrapped up in winter clothes, they all looked at the house for a moment before getting in to the icy car. Three doors clicked shut and the engine started.

"Well, this is it," Alan sighed, putting the car into first gear. "Everyone set?" When no answer came, Alan let the clutch up, and the car moved off the driveway and into the street. Jake leant his head against the window, watching as the houses rushed by in his street, until they pulled on to the main road, a tear slowly falling from his eye.

A new chapter in their lives was just beginning.

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